|01.16.11 at 8:14 am ET|
It was not long ago that teams signed free agents without regard for the draft pick they would have to sacrifice to do so. Clearly, that has changed.
Indeed, the pick that a team must sacrifice to sign a Type A free agent who rejects salary arbitration from his former club has become so significant that it reportedly became the subject of significant contention in the Yankees organization. Earlier this month, New York GM Brian Cashman said the Yankees — after being spurned by Cliff Lee — wouldn’t sign a Type A free agent because they were unwilling to sacrifice their first-round pick. But he was reportedly overruled at the ownership level, resulting in the decision to give up the No. 31 overall selection and sign Rafael Soriano as the most expensive setup man in history.
Just how valuable is the No. 31 overall pick? The answer varies significantly by year.
In 46 June drafts, just 15 players taken at the No. 31 spot have reached the majors. (For the complete list, click here.) Only two of them emerged as above-average players. One was Jarrod Washburn, who won 107 games after being taken by the Angels in 1995. The other? Greg Maddux, whose 355 career wins are the most by a right-hander whose career started after the World War…World War I, that is.
The Red Sox‘ free-agent activity resulted in their losing their own first-round pick (No. 24 overall) while gaining two (Nos. 19 and 26). Under GM Theo Epstein, the Sox have used compensation draft picks to acquire a number of their key prospects. (For details, click here.)
But historically, what kind of players have been selected with the first-round picks gained and sacrificed by the Sox this winter? Here is a look at the history of the three first-round draft picks that were affected by the Red Sox’ free agent activity this offseason:
|01.14.11 at 10:52 pm ET|
Speaking after the Hot Stove Cool Music roundtable, Red Sox GM Theo Epstein said that, as things currently stand, Marco Scutaro will be the shortstop for the 2011 Red Sox. That said, he also suggested that Jed Lowrie will be an important contributor, and that his performance will help to dictate his role and how much he plays at short.
“We have two really talented shortstops on the roster at different phases of their career, and they’ll both end up helping this club win,” Epstein said. “How it shakes out in terms of playing time will be up to [manager Terry Francona] ‘ and, ultimately, the players will determine their own roles. If we’re a better team with one guy playing two-thirds of the time and the other guy playing one-third of the time and moving around, that’s what we’ll be. If it looks like we’ll be a better team with a more traditional arrangement or a time share, that’s what we’ll do. Players, ultimately, make those decisions for you.”
Scutaro played in 150 games last year, 132 at short (he was relegated to second base at the end of last season by a neck injury that affected his ability to throw). In the first season of his two-year, $12.5 million deal, he hit .275/.333./.388/.721 with 11 homers. Lowrie missed the first half of 2010 while recovering from mono, but in 55 second-half games, he hit .287/.381/.526/.907 with nine homers.
Based on Lowrie’s strong performance down the stretch, the Sox do view him as an important part of the 2011 roster, though Epstein did say that Scutaro is currently slated to be the primary shortstop.
“Scutaro signed here to be the shortstop,” Epstein said. “He should be healthy when he comes to camp, and he’s going to play a lot of shortstop. But we’re not good enough that we can’t use every available resource that we have. Jed Lowrie is someone who can play a good shortstop, can play a number of positions, and can help this team win. He’s going to see some time at shortstop. But Marco was our shortstop last year, and, until something changes, that’s how it’s going to be.”
|01.14.11 at 3:49 pm ET|
Buster Olney of ESPN.com suggested (via twitter) that the Yankees‘ decision to sign reliever Rafael Soriano to a three-year, $35 million was driven more by ownership than by New York’s baseball operations department. And based on what Brian Cashman has said about his beliefs in bullpen construction in the past, it is not hard to fathom that he might have been uncomfortable with the idea of handing out the fifth-largest average annual value ($11.67 million) ever conferred upon a reliever — and for a pitcher who will not even be asked to handle the ninth inning for the Yankees, who have a certain Mariano Rivera on the roster (at $15 million per year for the 2011 and 2012 seasons) as a closer.
In spring training, Cashman talked about the first long-term deal to which the Yankees signed Rivera. After having gone to arbitration in 2000 (with Rivera “losing” when an arbitrator sided with the Yankees in granting the closer a $7.25 million salary), the two sides avoided a repeat of that forum in Feb. 2001. Rivera and the Yankees agreed to a four-year, $39.99 million deal, the first of four multi-year deals to which Cashman has now signed the future Hall of Famer.
Cashman was asked whether, in 2001, he had any reservations about Rivera’s ability to remain healthy or consistent in his performance given the widely held view that relief performance is extremely volatile on a year-to-year basis. His explanation touched on how he envisioned building bullpens and, indirectly, why a signing such as the reported deal with Soriano might run counter to Cashman’s philosophy.
“Back then, the evolution of the game, the knowledge of the volatility of relievers didn’t exist then. There wasn’t the evidence of the ups and downs that had been studied to the point that I can remember thinking about it back then. Back then, if you had a good arm, had success, give him a multi-year contract and he should continue doing well,” Cashman explained. “Versus now, you’re a lot more hesitant. How I go about building my bullpens, I’m essentially pulling guys. You draft guys with good arms, if they fail as a starter you throw them in the ‘pen. You know what? You’d be surprised how it can work out for you.”
There was a time when the Yankees invested heavily in middle relievers. They shocked the industry with a four-year, $22.25 million deal for Steve Karsay from 2002-05. They gave Kyle Farnsworth $17 million for three years from 2006-08.
But in recent years, Cashman had made a point of building more economical bullpens, something he mentioned before the 2010 season.
“I’ve had a pretty cheap bullpen the last few years to set up Mariano. A couple years ago, we had Edwar Ramirez and [Jose] Veras. [In 2009], we had [Dave] Robertson and [Joba] Chamberlain. We had Phil Hughes,” he said. “We don’t have, like we used to, the Karsay, the Farnsworth contracts, the Paul Quantrills where you go out and get them to sign for three- or four-year reliever contracts, because it’s volatile.”
Now, however, the Yankees have a new reliever under contract for up to three years — unless, according to reports, Soriano exercises his right to opt-out of the deal after either 2011 or 2012. It is a deal in which the Yankees are getting a pitcher who, over the last two years, has been undeniably one of the best in the game, one who led the A.L. in saves and had a sub-2.00 ERA in 2010 despite pitching in a division of relentless lineups.
Even so, it represents a clear departure from the way in which the Yankees had been building bullpens in the past, and the way in which Cashman suggested he wanted to build bullpens.
|01.13.11 at 10:40 pm ET|
CHANDLER, Ariz. — Just hours before the Yankees locked up Rafael Soriano, I sat down with the Red Sox‘ own closer-turned-set-up-man, Bobby Jenks. Jenks is working out at the Keith Poole’s Training Zone, with Dustin Pedroia, Andre Ethier and Kevin Frandsen (among others) after having always trained in the Chicago area throughout his previous offseasons.
Below is just a snippet of the sit-down. (For the complete column on Jenks, click here):
|01.13.11 at 9:35 pm ET|
According to SI.com, reliever Rafael Soriano has agreed to a deal with the Yankees, thought to be forthree years, $35 million. Soriano will set-up closer Mariano Rivera, who is signed for the next two seasons. The New York Times reports that Soriano has opt-out clauses, allowing him to make $11.5 million for one year, $21.5 million for two, and the $35 million for all three.
The 31-year-old Soriano saved an American League-best 45 games for Tampa Bay in 2010, compiling a 1.73 ERA while striking out 57 and walking 14 in 62 1/3 innings. In 2009 the righty saved 27 games for the Braves, finishing with a 2.97 ERA.
The move would cost the Yankees their first-round draft pick (31st overall) since Soriano was a Type-A free agent. It comes just days after New York general manager Brian Cashman said the Yanks wouldn’t be willing to sacrifice a first-round draft pick in order to sign any free agent. The move also guarantees that the Red Sox will be receiving Texas’ first-round pick as compensation for Adrian Beltre agreeing to his deal with the Rangers since Soriano was the last remaining free agent with a higher Elias ranking than Beltre. (If Soriano signed with the Rangers, their pick would have gone to the Rays.)
|01.13.11 at 10:20 am ET|
Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo joined the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning to talk baseball and promote the Hot Stove Cool Music charity event set for Saturday night at the Paradise Rock Club. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
It’s been five years since Arroyo was traded from the Red Sox to the Reds for Wily Mo Pena, and he was asked if it felt that long. ‘Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t,’ Arroyo said. ‘It’s funny, I was with Kevin Youkilis doing a little cameo in a movie last offseason, and we were talking about how it seemed like time has gone so fast, and couldn’t believe that 2004 was five years ago, because sometimes it scoots by.’
When asked about the movie and who got the bigger part, Arroyo said, ‘Well, I don’t know because we haven’t seen what made the cut yet. But it’s a movie called “Goat,” because that’s what they call a GTO in New York. I think it’s coming out next summer. It’s got Armand Assante in it, and Ice T and some other guys. We just had a small part in this barber shop scene, and we don’t even know if it’s going to make the cut yet, but hopefully it will.’
Arroyo said it’s still not clear to him why he was sent packing from Boston. “No one quite understood the trade,” he said. “I don’t think to this day they have. I still don’t know exactly why they made that move. Anytime you get let go from a place you want to be, you want to do well. But I think at the end of the day, you want to do well no matter where you’re at.”
Arroyo has done well when matched against Adrian Gonzalez, the first baseman the Red Sox acquired from the Padres last month, limiting him to three hits in 26 at-bats. Yet, Arroyo speaks highly of the slugger. “I’ve just had decent success against him,” Arroyo said. “He’s one of those guys, he kind of flies under the radar. I actually think he will do for you guys as well as you think he is. He’s the kind of guy who is just really consistent. He doesn’t really have off months. … He’s a guy who just kind of goes out there, he never gets too high, never two low. He’s just consistent across the board. And his power is unbelievable. I think he’ll be a really, really good addition to that team.”
|01.12.11 at 4:18 pm ET|
Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia joined The Big Show for his weekly “Laser Show” segment on Wednesday. Pedroia has been training for the coming season, and after a broken foot limited him to 75 games last season, he feels he’ll be fine to do his normal regiment in spring training.
“Once I get to spring training I start my in-season program and I continue that throughout the season lifting-wise,” Pedroia said. “I don’t think there’s going to be a problem with anything. I’ll go out there, take my normal ground balls, and that’s about it. I should be normal.”
On the subject of Jacoby Ellsbury, who was criticized by fans in a 2010 season that was derailed by a rib injury, Pedroia said the outfielder is misunderstood and defended his quiet demeanor.
“He was hurt. Jacoby wants to win more than anybody,” Pedroia said. “Just because he doesn’t sit in front of his locker, answer questions and talk trash and act stupid like I do, he’s a great guy and wants to win.
“Jacoby goes out there and plays hard. Look at how he got hurt. He’s flying to a ball in foul territory, and he goes full-speed and lays out and Adrian Beltre’s knee goes through his ribs. I don’t think that’s a guy that wants to be traded and is playing for himself or holding out for the last dollar. That’s not that guy.”
To listen to the complete interview, click here.
|01.12.11 at 4:11 pm ET|
Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons appeared on The Big Show on Wednesday afternoon. As an admitted outsider to the proceedings, he discussed his perspective on the verbal volleys that the Jets have been lobbing at the Patriots.
“I’ve never heard of a football coach saying it’s between him and another coach,” said Gammons, referring to Jets coach Rex Ryan‘s proclamation that Sunday’s game would be decided by him and Patriots counterpart Bill Belichick. “I’m absolutely astounded. It’s comical.”
Gammons also previewed the Hot Stove Cool Music events that will be taking place this weekend as fundraisers for The Foundation To Be Named Later. A roundtable conversation will take place on Friday night that will include Sox GM Theo Epstein, farm director Mike Hazen, trainer Mike Reinold, team psychologist Bob Tewksbury, former Sox pitching coach John Farrell and former Sox pitchers Bronson Arroyo and Curt Schilling. The panel will discuss the development of pitching.
The Hot Stove Cool Music concert will take place on Saturday night, featuring The Lemonheads, Buffalo Tom, Kay Hanley, American Hi-Fi, The Candles, Arroyo, Gammons and others.
|01.12.11 at 3:49 pm ET|
ESPN released its first-half schedule of Sunday Night Baseball games, and the Red Sox are currently scheduled to be featured more often than any other team in the majors. The Sox have four Sunday night games: On April 10 when hosting the Yankees, on May 15 when visiting the Yankees in New York, on May 22 when hosting the Cubs at Fenway Park and on July 17 at Tampa Bay. The Yankees are featured three times on Sunday night.
For the complete lineup of Sunday night games through July 17, click here.
|01.12.11 at 12:38 pm ET|
Check out a sample of what transpired when Dustin Pedroia challenged WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford to undergo the torture chamber that is the second baseman’s offseason workout. The complete feature on the endeavor will be unleashed in the coming days:
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